For many bookworms, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of cracking open a book at the end of a long day and being transported into a character’s life for just a few hours. Within those faded white pages resides an intricate universe created by the author that provide compelling reflections of society in various time periods. Stories can teach readers about a diverse range of experiences and viewpoints, as well as enable them to develop compassion by understanding an author’s or character’s perspective. When these types of stories are written by empowering women, they can further inspire other women to live an unapologetic life. Thankfully, there is an almost endless number of examples of books whose storylines empower readers. Here are just a few of the many female authors whose work has inspired generations of women.
Having written sixteen (and counting) fiction novels as well as seventeen works of poetry and ten non-fiction books, Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s vast range of work could fill up an entire library on its own. Best known for her acclaimed 1985 dystopian novel that was recently made into an award-winning series on Hulu, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s books often poignantly reflect on the challenges faced by women in patriarchal societies. The Handmaid’s Tale is a gripping read that paints an alarming image of a futuristic America where women’s rights have been stripped away from them. Atwood is also working on a sequel to this story titled The Testaments, which is due to be released this September. Some other books to check out from Atwood’s collection are The Edible Women, Cat’s Eye, and Alias Grace.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A prominent force in the 21st-century feminist movement, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s fiction and essay publications have been widely praised for their emotionally in-depth narratives. If her name sounds familiar, that’s likely because of her powerful TEDx Talk from 2012, We Should All Be Feminists, which was sampled in Beyoncé’s hit song,***Flawless. Adichie followed up her popular speech in 2014 with a novel of the same title, providing insight into what it means to identify as a feminist in modern society. She has also written four works of fiction that have been heavily celebrated. 2013’s Americanah tells the story of how the main character Ifemelu’s move from Nigeria to America in the early 2000s leads her to reevaluate her identity. Her novel The Thing Around Your Neck also takes place in both Nigeria and the United States, while Half Of A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus are set in Nigeria. Readers can also watch her empowering TEDx Talk below.
When Angie Thomas released her debut novel The Hate U Give back in 2016, she made massive waves in the young adult literary world and even landed a movie deal for a film adaptation that was released this past October. Thomas’ writing perfectly captures the emotional complexity of being a teenage girl as the plot centers around police brutality and systematic racism. The main character Starr’s journey in The Hate U Give towards accepting herself and speaking out against the injustices facing her community makes for an important and dynamic coming-of-age story that is a must-read. Thomas’ eagerly awaited follow-up novel, On The Come Up, tells the story of an aspiring teenage female rapper and was just released in early February.
For readers searching for stories that lean more on the light-hearted side, Jennifer Weiner’s wide range of novels should help fulfill those needs. Her writing style effortlessly blends humor with more serious topics as her books dispense messages on growing to appreciate oneself and being empathetic towards others. Most notable of her works is Good In Bed, Weiner’s semi-autobiographical debut in 2001 that boldly reads as a ‘90s era rom-com with a modernly intelligent feminist edge. This story follows how the main character Cannie’s life was thrown into chaos when she discovered that her ex-boyfriend wrote an article about her size and their relationship for a national women’s magazine. Some other works’ of Weiner’s to look into are In Her Shoes, The Next Best Thing, and Good In Bed’s sequel Certain Girls.
When it comes to empowering representations of female characters in literature, Jane Austen’s novels contain some of the most historically notable examples of self-sufficient women. Austen’s richly detailed work will sweep readers away into another time period, and while some of the 18th-century language may not necessarily be the easiest to read at times, her witty and romantic storylines are more than well worth the effort. After all, her renowned novels have stood the test of time throughout several centuries for good reason. At the forefront of each of her books are clever female lead characters who strive to forge their own path in life. In addition to her most known novel Pride and Prejudice, her works Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion are also worth a read.
With only two full collections poetry released so far in her burgeoning career, Canadian poet Rupi Kaur is certainly a creative figure to watch. Her electric poems range from simplistically powerful to in-depth reflections on themes of femininity and emotional pain. In addition to her poetry, Kaur’s work also occasionally includes hand-drawn illustrations accompanying her words that visually adds another layer of depth to her messages. Kaur’s 2014 debut Milk and Honey was initially self-published and quickly developed into a national bestseller. A few years later in 2017 her second release, The Sun and Her Flowers was similarly praised and places a greater emphasis on growing into oneself. While readers await the announcement of more collections to come from Kaur, check out her Instagram where the poet regularly posts her work and watch her interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon below.
There are far too many empowering female authors to condense into one brief list. These books should rather serve as an introduction to expanding one’s personal library to include more work written by inspirational women. The next time you find yourself with some downtime, cuddle up with a warm cup of tea, a good book, and channel your inner Belle from Beauty and the Beast.